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6 Things You Need to Change With Your CV & Folio.

05 Jul 18:00 By Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers CV Folio Portfolio

While this may come across as a ‘woe is me’ comment, there are moments that can be tedious with being a recruiter.  Sure, that is going to exist with any job although I think we can all agree that each job is going to have its own special brand of tedious.  

Given the nature of the temporary freelance world, it is important for most creative recruitment agencies to ensure that we’re constantly finding and meeting freelance creatives.  Freelancers can tend to be booked up when opportunities come in or transition to more permanent opportunities and so failing to continue building that ‘talent pool’ is asking for a shortage of great people to be available.  

This can be ‘tedious’ though as it requires us to, well, actually do our job and to look at countless CVs and resumes to see if we can find those people that have the skills that we know are going to be useful and of interest to our clients.

What exists below is more of a rant from a tired consultant who felt that a few hard truths are going to be useful. I’m avoiding sounding like that guy who does those ‘Hungry Thirsty’ ads here in Australia however I suspect, as I read over my draft, that I have failed abysmally at this and concede that maybe this piece just needs to be what it is - an open, honest and sometimes brutal look at what so many people consistently get wrong.

You know what; there is no shortage of ‘why we hate recruiters’ articles out there so I have no shame in sharing this slice of hard truth pie with you all.  I'm making that karmic balance level. If you can take it for what it is and apply what it says to yourself, you can benefit.  Keep in mind this - when I read an article bagging recruiters that talks about how they saw ten recruiters and they were all crap and couldn’t find them a job, that inner commentary voice that we usually keep quiet pops up and says, ‘yes.  I think the problem could be the common denominator in each of those situations… YOU!’  I mean, what else could it be?  If it wasn’t for their obsession to bag recruiters and take on board the advice offered, they could probably get on with life.   

Let’s face it; if you’re going to make vast generalisations about everything that annoys you and that causes you to lose your ability to trust other people, you might as well just stay in bed and avoid contact with anything remotely human.  I suggest starting a diary and that way you can just have a ‘what p*ssed me off today’ daily entry. 

“Dear Diary,

Today the bus driver stopped a full 30cm from the designated stopping space. I had to walk two extra steps to get onto the bus. He was not even apologetic for what he did to me. I don’t think I’m ever going to offer my time to bus drivers again.”

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked from the actual purpose of this article, which is a tongue-in-cheek look at what things I see all the time in CVs and resumes that are doing you absolutely NO favours.  If you read this and you recognise this is you, time to consider something new.

"I have ten years experience…"

People seem obsessed with using ‘I have 10 years experience’ as a means of justifying their ability to do absolutely anything in the creative world.  I can recall having a fight with someone as they didn’t have literally any of the criteria mentioned in the job description and all they could tell me in response was “but I have ten years industry experience.”

I need to be very clear here; the only time something having 10 years experience is of interest to me is if it is wine or scotch. (Both are warmly accepted.) 

Just because someone has 10 years experience, it doesn’t mean that they can do absolutely anything. Honestly, in some cases, it doesn’t even mean that they’re even actually any good. We need to stop the whole ‘length of time in the industry equating to creative excellence’ thing. I’ve also met people with less than 10 years experience who are freakin’ awesome and some with 20 years industry experience who blow my mind but the length of time they have been in the industry is irrelevant. What is interesting is their ability to push the creative boundaries, to continue developing their skill, to be responsible for projects - that’s what makes them a great designer, NOT the length of time.

Want to start a debate at a creative meet up? Ask them the question ‘at what point can you call yourself a Senior Designer’ and see what kind of responses you get there. If someone tries to answer that question solely based on length of time, I’d lay bets that their design is probably not really that good.

Using percentages to ‘rate’ your skill with software.

I’ve seen some online CV’s that use bar graphs with percentages to tell me how good they are with Creative Suite.

How did you come up with those percentages?

What scientific process did you utilise in order to accurately gauge this colossal insight? 

I saw someone once rate themselves as 99% on Photoshop; what was the 1%?

What does that mean you can’t do?

If I asked someone what kind of mediums they’ve produced and they respond with ‘everything’, then it tells me nothing. Statistics are just another version of that, yes?

Did you know that 86.63% of statistics are made up on the spot? (Yes, it’s an old joke but a good one…)

Using pretentious quotes

You know what I’m talking about there. Having artsy images with some whimsical design quote that is either meant to inspire or educate or inform or make me feel that this person is a ‘serious designer’. 

I can assure you that they’re not inspiring and they don’t convey a sense that you’re better than another designer who doesn’t have them. 

Worst of all, they’re potentially taking away from beautiful negative space and they’re going to make the majority of people who see them roll their eyes and think, ‘whatever!’ 

Take it from me, trying to educate / lecture people in the creative industry via informative quotes about the philosophy of design is probably never a good idea.

A folio that consists of just the same thing over and over

I once had someone send me 10 pages of press ads. Just press ads. Nothing else. 

And, if I’m honest, they weren’t even good press ads. 

You know that friend that thinks they can sing and everyone keeps telling them that they can sing really well so they go on those reality tv singing shows where the judges tear them to shreds for just being freckin’ awful? Yes, that’s what I feel like sometimes. But in the same way that this person would only become a singing sensation if they knocked Wing (look her up on Google… classic!) off her throne, they’re not going to end up singers. We can save the philosophical debate about if it is better to accept this fact and do something else versus ‘chasing the dream’ because it’s meaningful for another time. 

This is the same with the folio too. If it is below industry standard and not commercial competitive, they need to know. I’m not claiming to be the dark overlord of creative approval; this is just down to some basic facts - I see a lot of folios, I know what good design looks like and I know what my clients want to see. With this feedback, it can hopefully drive people to continue developing their craft and/or consider how they can best use their skills. Not everyone is going to be Kelly Clarkson, right?

Anyway, back to ad folio… I was pretty confident after page 1 that they were letting me know they could do press ads. After page 5, I was beginning to wonder if they could do anything other than press ads. By page 10, I was convinced that they were unnaturally obsessed with press ads and should probably seek psychological help to get over this horrible affliction. They would then normally follow this up with some explanation about how they’ve been in the industry for 10 years and can do anything although all I managed to see was 10 pages of press ads. Tell me, when was the last time you saw a design job that required you to do nothing but press ads?

Give me diversity. Give me commercially competitive. Give me a wow factor. Give me anything other than 10 pages or a website folio that just contains countless examples of the same thing. 

What am I look at here?

A lack of description around what the piece is, what you did on it, who you did it with, what the brief was, etc is bad. 

If I’m just looking at a picture of something and that’s it, what am I supposed to know about it? 

If I had a folio and I show you a picture of a brochure, what do you assume from it? The assumption is, of course, that I did everything - but did I? Or was I working within a style guide? Did someone write the copy? Where did the images come from? What kind of time frame did I have to produce it? Was it just me or was there a team involved? Did I take it through to print ready? 

You get the picture… now give me the words.

Your folio is for commercial work. You’re not the Louvre.

Your folio is a sales tool. It is meant to show commercial employers what you can offer them. Please, don’t mix fine art with commercial pieces in your folio. 

If someone wanted fine art, they’ll go to a gallery. 

If they’re looking for a designer, then they’re not going to want to see your reinterpretation of Mexican day of the dead paintings in two colour with mixed media. 

They’re going to want to see your commercial, useable work because that’s what they’re going to want you to produce for them.

By all means have a fine art folio and website but understand that the folio is ABOUT you, not FOR you.

In conclusion

Yes, there is a lot of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humour here however I know there have been lots of articles written about these topics and yet we still continue to see it every day. 

While some would call this ‘advice’, others are going to say that it really is just common sense. 

If I have to make you laugh, get angry or consider writing a journal to document your hatred of peoples activities that you’ve perceived as being annoying, then I feel like it has been a worth while. 

If I’ve triggered something here, gently rocking in the corner while stroking a kitten for 20 minutes may fix it. 

Otherwise, take the ‘advice’ (cough) contained here, consider if it is applicable to you, and send through CVs and folios that actually have us feeling like you’re on it.